A Mayfly 14 Story
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by Tom Burton - Champaign, Illinois - USA

This story begins with a love of airplanes. My dad has been an aviation enthusiast for many years. Starting in the 60’s he began accumulating “Sport Aviation” magazines. His goal had been in those days to build a Gyrocopter. A perhaps not unnatural fear of the rotor blade flying off put an end to this desire.

A job doing boat repair in Kansas led him to a love of boating, which lead to the construction of a sailing canoe using a modified Sunfish sail. One of the great pleasures of his life is sailing that canoe in the wide open lakes out in Kansas, planing out, his buddy hiked over the side, dad ruddering with just a canoe paddle. He would go on to run a canoe rental business in Yorkville Illinois in the early 70’s.

Years later, the passion for aviation was rekindled in me, flipping through my Dad’s collection of Sport Aviation, and myself becoming a member of the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA). I wrote short stories, drew hundreds of pictures of airplanes, and visited the Oshkosh, Wisconsin “Airventure” air show (a week long extravaganza for aviation enthusiasts) several times with my father.

We were enamored with ultralights in particular because of their accessibility to non-pilots, and their relative ease of construction. The one that drew our attention the most, and ultimately stole our hearts was the Fisher FP-101. Partly due to its looking like a real airplane, (and a Piper Cub at that) and partly due to its all wood construction, we were hooked, and bought the kit, including engine for around $4,000. The year, 1984. (The images you see here are file photos, not our project.)

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A Fisher FP-101 in progress

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A Fisher FP-101 clothed

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The project was not to be completed, for various reasons, and after a number of years of languishing in the basement, was sold to another enthusiast.

My father’s interest in sailing and boat building had waned for many years, but was waxing again in the 1990’s with the purchase of an Old Town sailing canoe. 16 feet long, and 30 inches at the beam with 75 square feet of lateen rig, (similar to a Sunfish’), she could probably outrun my Dad’s original sailing canoe of the 60’s. After several years of ownership and the occasional outing, he was contemplating selling it. At this there was a great outcry from my brothers and me. We hadn’t had enough time in the canoe for dad to sell it yet!! He obliged us by getting it out for a few more runs at the lake.

I was hooked. A few times out in the Old Town, and I couldn’t get enough. After that I paid for sailing lessons in Decatur, Illinois on a Sunfish, complete with capsize lessons. Dad and I and my brother David started talking about building a sailboat. Dad had already been doing a lot of web-surfing, and had discovered Duckworks Magazine, (his new Sport Aviation), and was soon sending me links to boat plans.

It wasn’t long before we’d decided to build a boat. A sailboat. A real sort of sailboat with more than 30 inches of beam, and a little curvature to the bottom, and the ability to move around if you needed to get some feeling back into your backside. (All of these things that weren’t readily available in a sailing canoe). Eventually, we settled on the Mayfly 14, a Jim Michalak design. Soon thereafter I was the proud owner of “Boat building for Beginners and Beyond

Funds are sometimes a problem for those of us deciding to build rather than buy the perfect sailboat. We were no exception to this, and a sort of fund drive began (ala ebay) to provide the necessary money for the project. My wife and I both found (bow and arrow) bows at garage sales that provided a huge chunk of the funds necessary to purchase raw materials. We decided to name the boat “Scrimp” in honor of its frugal beginnings.

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Construction began in December of 2003.

In this middle of all of this, my Dad found a boat for sale near his home in Sheridan, Illinois. A Ghost 13 was for sale for $450 including an immaculate practically new galvanized trailer. Well, heck, we could almost sell the trailer and get our investment back out of it, so WHY NOT? Soon we were the proud owners of a Ghost 13. My fear at this point, having already gotten seriously into the Mayfly project is that my dad would stop working on it! He has this habit of jumping from project to project (don’t we all!).

Anyway, the Ghost was purchased modified, sailed, modified again and dutifully stowed under the lean-to at my father’s house. Another summer would see not see much more work on the Scrimp as domestic issues and enthrallment with the Ghost took over. Nevertheless, plans were made to get to the Midwest Messabout of 2006, come heck or high-water (preferably neither).

Another push of effort got us nearly to the messabout, but we preferred to have a seaworthy craft to show, rather than an almost-there work in progress, we opted to not got to the messabout in favor of finishing the project and putting in on a local small lake.

Following are some images from the construction process and finally sailing: enjoy!

Getting ready to really sand this thing down.

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Requisite energy for keeping gorilla glue in place.

Dad and Tom Sanding

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So that’s how you radius the fiber-glassed corners!

A friendly discussion about colors.

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Testing the rigging on land.... first!

First sail.

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A satisfied sailboat.